The game is over. The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Announcers rush the field for a word with Peyton Manning. “Peyton, now that the Super Bowl is yours, what comes next?” “Well, I guess I’m going to Disney World" Peyton responds,like so many other quarterbacks before him. Orlando’s identity—forever shadowed by two giant mouse ears.
Don’t get me wrong…I dig Disney…doesn’t everybody? The theme park and its surrounding attractions were a massive part of my upbringing. Disney films touched the soul of a younger, more impressionable me. Trips to Epcot chaperoned by my grandparents were opportunities to walk around “the globe,” tasting new and exotic foods and absorbing new and exotic cultures. the photo ops with every Disney princess that made my heart flutter and get giddy with a 7 year olds nervous version of love. Far more important than any of my personal experiences with the corporate and cultural icon, Orlando’s Disney World draws millions of tourists to Orlando each year, and in so doing, has laid the foundation for our city’s economy. My family’s survival was inexorably tied to Disney, as was a vast majority Orlando residents.
But, times they are a changin’. Orlando is growing and gaining a unique identity as it steps out of a looming mouse-ear-shadow. This city is alive. This city is growing strong through a new sense of self. I can feel it in the air. Downtown is housing more and more creative workspaces like Canvs and Catalyst that boast innovative young businesses and entrepreneurs. The Milk District and Mills50 areas have quickly become bohemian havens for the bar, food, and concert scene. We are defining our city and nothing can stop us.
It’s a “cold” (sorry northerners) winter day in Orlando; I know exactly what the doctor ordered—a big boy noodle bowl of pho at Anh Hong, my personal favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Across from me sit two close friends and Orlando residents: Ted Henderson and Josh Call. In conjunction with playing five or more weekly crooner gigs around town, Ted has been slaving away on a new album that aims to encapsulate the experiences fostered by a lust for living in a young city, enjoying the fruits its countless beautiful women have to offer, all the while acknowledging the torment innate in such love and lust (think if The Weeknd and Chet Baker had a love child). Josh Call owns the classic Vegan Hot Dog Cart in Downtown Orlando (grab two chili dogs after a few pints at Lizzys, you will not regret it) and recently opened his latest foodie venture, Dixie Dharma. This newest brainchild resides in the Market on South—an open marketplace offering artisan goods, a bakery, booze, and some damn good vibes. All across Orlando one can find lunch sit downs like this one and the people who comprise it. Young, energized, hungry individuals with a taste for culture, a thirst for knowledge, and the goods needed to add to our region’s cache, its charm, and its charisma.
I take pride in the pride my neighbors take in our city—shout out to my Lions. Keep creating, making Orlando a place that people revere in or outside of a theme park, on or off of I-Drive. Let’s make Peyton try vegan chili dogs because he wants to, not because I got him drunk and and made him.